When you visit Belgium for the first time, you won’t think twice about visiting it again. That’s because you will immediately discover how beautiful this country is. You will also find out about the many different activities you can take part in to make your Belgium stay a memorable experience.
Before you go somewhere, though, you need to know if it is a safe destination. After all, safety should be the number one priority during travel. Is Belgium safe? The short answer is: yes, it definitely is! In this article we’ll look more into why this is the case.
Why is Belgium a Safe Place to Live in
Before we talk about why Belgium is safe, let’s first discuss some reasons why we should consider going there in the first place. These are the reasons why you need to visit Belgium:
The main reason for going to Belgium is to experience architecture unlike any other. The small towns are just so beautiful because of the houses, the streets, and the overall sense that you are in a quaint little place. It’s almost poetic. Special mention goes to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and the capital city of Brussels, of course.
Chances are, you’ve probably heard of Belgian waffles. Belgians really do know how to make their waffles delicious. Some waffles are crunchy outside but creamy on the inside, while others have sugar clumps in them that melt in your mouth. They have all varieties of waffles, each one excellent, each one ready to make your mouth water.
There are several reasons why Belgium is associated with diversity, but one of them is the language. Basically, there are two distinct parts of Belgium; the Northerners speak Dutch, while the Southerners speak French.
Moreover, while the European Union doesn’t have a capital, you can say that it is Brussels, since it houses the European Council, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. This makes Brussels highly diverse, as lots of migrants from all over Europe have made it their new home.
Each year, more and more people are realizing the benefits of a vegetarian diet, and how it may be bad for your health if you always eat meat. Well, Belgium is dubbed by many as the Vegetarian capital of the world.
In fact, Ghent, Belgium, for example, has lots of amazing vegetarian restaurants. Every Thursday is Veggie Thursday in Ghent, encouraging non-vegetarians to not eat meat during that day.
Beer and Fries
Speaking of food, you will find lots of tasty options when it comes to Beer and Fries in Belgium. In Belgium, fries are called Frites, and it is not an understatement to say that there’s no other fries in the world like Belgian fries. They are absolutely that delicious.
Belgium is not Boring
Belgium has an unfounded reputation of being boring. The reality is, Belgium is more exciting than what people make it out to be, and when you are planning a Europe tour, you should definitely not miss out on visiting this country.
For example, if you are going to the Netherlands from Paris, and you’re doing so on popular train routes, you should definitely consider stopping over Belgium and not just pass by. Make a quick stop at the capital city of Brussels, but once in there, make short train rides to Antwerp, Ghent, Brugge and other places outside the capital.
Safety in Belgium
Now that we know how amazing it is to go to Belgium, let’s focus on the safety of this country. Is it safe to go there? Well, the short answer to that question is yes, it is very safe. Let’s look into a bit more detail.
Belgium has been a victim of terrorism over the past few years. The most recent ones happened back in June 2017, when there was an attempt to attack the central train station of the capital city of Brussels.
Another incident, which happened back in March of 2016, involved attacks at several locations, such as the National Airport of Brussels, and the Maalbeek / Maelbeek metro and the Zaventem metro. These attacks are so violent that 32 died and 300 were injured.
Because of the reality of terrorist threats that have occurred and may occur again in Belgium, the country itself labels its threat level to 2 of 4.
In some places in Belgium, the terrorism threat level is even higher, at 3 of 4.
You should try to avoid the following places to not fall victim to terrorist attacks. However, if you really need to be in these places, you just need to remain vigilant.
- Tourist spots
- Shopping districts and malls
- Train stations
- Public transportation
- Major events
The common denominator out of all of these places is that they are basically places where large groups of people can potentially gather.
The Belgian police are really active when it comes to terrorism. They are well-equipped to handle attacks and even prevent them from happening in the first place. As such, you really shouldn’t worry too much when going to Belgium.
In case you get in a situation where there is a police operation that’s happening, and your in the vicinity, the best thing you can do is just close the windows and doors if you’re at home, or to just follow what the police tells you in general.
So how do you protect yourself from threats of terrorism? Here are some important tips:
- When you see anyone that is acting suspiciously, and you’re convinced that they might be up to something bad, it’s best to call the attention of the police.
- Always follow the advice of local police authorities.
- Listen to local news reports and just be up to date and be aware of what’s going on in your community.
Some of the more common crimes that happen in Belgium are bag snatching, pickpocketing, mugging and theft. These usually happen in urban locations and in tourist spots.
There are also incidents of theft that happens inside trains, whether they travel internationally or locally.
Where does crime usually happen in Belgium? Here’s a list:
- Brussels – the capital city.
- Antwerp – the second most populous city in Belgium
- Bruges – sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North with all its canals
- Ghent – the third largest city of Belgium.
- Local public transportation – as mentioned above, theft can occur in trains and other public transportation.
How can you stay safe against crime? Here are some important tips:
- One common strategy that thieves employ to their victims is distracting them. For example, they can ask you questions, or they can spill food in front of you.
- Don’t jog, walk or ride a bike alone at night.
- Use your common sense and don’t expose your gadgets and other valuable belongings in public.
- Don’t wear your headphones at night
- While you are walking, pay attention by not using your phone.
Safety in Public Transportation
If you want to get around quickly and easily in Belgium, the best way to do so is through train. That means you’ll spend lots of time staying in train stations, where theft is likely to occur if you’re not careful.
Therefore, when you’re in train stations, you should take care of your belongings, especially the more valuable ones, like laptops, iPads, cash and smart phones. You need these things while you’re traveling, but you have to be extra careful when handling these things inside public places like train stations.
Theft occurs in almost all train stations, not just in Belgium, but in many places around the world. However, in Belgium, the highest risk train stations for theft are Central Station in Bruxelles – Central, the South Station at Bruxelles – Midi or Brussel – Zuid, or the North Station located at Bruxelles – Nord or Brussel – Noord).
Also, when you have already boarded the train, don’t think for one second that you are already safe from pickpockets. There have been incidents of theft inside trains, in particular international train stations, so you have to keep an eye on that as well.
Try to avoid putting your bags on the overhead. Chances are you will slightly forget about your bag being there, assuming its safe in there, but there have been instances of bags stolen and it’s difficult to be always on the alert in long train rides.
Aside from theft in trains, you should also be careful when you’re in or around buses and trams. Thieves in these locations go after the small but valuable items, like smart phones and other gadgets.
It’s not like thieves work individual as well. Most of them work in groups, as if it is their profession to make other people’s lives miserable. They use varying strategies and methods to be more efficient with their crime, and that primarily involves distracting the victim so he or she becomes unaware that something has been stolen from him or her.
Never join political protests and demonstrations. They may start peaceful at first, but these rallies can become violent in an instant. You don’t want to be around when violence ensures, unless you want to get hurt.
Often, these demonstrations and rallies are directed at the following institutions: NATO, European Union institutions and embassies.
The risks associated with protests heighten when international meetings are held in the country, and that often happens actually. During these meetings, big business and political figures may arrive, and so the security is heightened in certain parts of Belgium.
When it comes to natural disasters, Belgium’s only major risk is bad weather, which can hinder your travel plans. Always monitor the local news for weather updates.
There have been several earthquakes in the past as well, but Belgium is a relatively peaceful country when it comes to natural disasters.
Before going to Belgium, you need to be sure that you are not only physically fit, but mentally fit as well. This is especially true if you already have a sickness, or need medication.
Remember that there are certain diseases that make a person more vulnerable to other diseases, including harmful viruses like the one causing this current global health crisis.
Before traveling to Belgium, you need to be equipped with the right vaccines. Here are the vaccines you need.
All travelers need to be vaccinated for Measles and Routine vaccines. Routine vaccines include:
- MMR, or measles-mumps-rubella vaccine
- DTP, or diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- Varicella or chickenpox vaccine
- Polio vaccine
- Annual flu shot
Some travelers, on the other hand, are required to be vaccinated of the following, depending on what their doctor tells them:
- Hepatitis A vaccine – this is required for travelers whose doctors tells them to do so. In Belgium, you can get Hepatitis A primarily from water or food that is spoiled, so you have to be careful.
- Hepatitis B vaccine – Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended if you have a new partner, since it can be transmitted through copulation. It can also be transmitted through contaminated needles and for any procedure that involves blood, like piercings, getting a tattoo, or having a medical procedure. So you need to be careful with this as well.
- Rabies vaccine – if you are a traveler that is planning on doing outdoor activities, like exploring the wild, and trekking, then the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you get a rabies vaccine. In Belgium, rabies can be transmitted through bats, although it is not really a major threat to travelers.
Rabies vaccine is also recommended for scientists or people working around wildlife, and especially bats in particular.
Belgium is an industrialized nation, but bug bites are a reality in the country and they can spread disease. If you’re spending time in certain wooded areas, then you have to protect yourself from bugs.
To prevent bug bites, here are some of the things that you can do:
- Wear long sleeves and long pants to cover as much of your skin as possible.
- You can try using an insect repellent, but it should be one with active ingredients, like deet, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535 or 2-undecanone.
- When you’re already beaten, try not to scratch it. Instead, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce the itch.
There you have it. Belgian certainly has a lot more to offer than what some people make it to be. It is a great place to be in, and not only that, it is a very safe destination.